A small step to a Giant Leap

How to Patch vCenter 6.5 Appliance - From CD-ROM

Today, I'm going to show you how we can patch the VMware vCenter 6.5 Appliance. If you are concerning about the bug fixes improvements of your vCenter, Appliance patching is playing a great role. 

I believe you are now familiar with the vCenter 6.5 which came with lots of new features and improvements. So, less talk and let's get started..

First of all make sure to take the relevant backups and a snapshot of the vCenter before the Patch Update to avoid any unexpected situations after the upgrade, that's the best practice before any sort of patch or version upgrade.

Mainly there are three ways that you can patch your vCenter Appliance. You can check for the updates and patches from the online repository or you can place your own Web Server in your environment and create your own repository to patch the vCenter Server. If you are going to use your own web server to present the patch content you can download the Patch and update bundles in the
VMware Download Center. You need to use your VMware login credentials to download the zip files. 

In this article, I'm going to show you the steps to perform the full patch using your CD-ROM. Download the relevant Patches from the VMware Patch Download Center and mount it to your vCenter Appliance. 

First Time in Sri Lanka - VMware User Group Meetup

This is a great News for All Sri Lankan VMware Users. We are going to have the First VMware User group Meet up in Colombo.

What's New in VMware vSphere 6.5

World leading Virtualization platform VMware latest release comes with lots of new features. Most of them were waiting for these changes for years and that dream came true with this release. As I mentioned in many posts I'm really impressed with this release and I'm spending more time on testing these new features. So, I decided to write a series of blog posts to share my experience in VMware 6.5 release with others. 

How to Mount the Host CD-ROM to the ESXi Shell

I had to mount the ESXi Host CD-ROM to the ESXi shell to perform some tasks and these are the steps to mount the CD-ROM to the ESXi host 

First of all login to the ESXi host using whatever the remote console available (iDRAC, ILO, IMM or CIMC) and mount the ISO

These are the steps for DELL iDRAC and the steps of Mounting the ISO can be different in the other vendors.

Activate the Virtual Media in the iDRAC , Go to "Virtual Media -> Connect Virtual Media" 

Renew Evaluation Licences in ESXi

Sometimes you might need these steps in your lab environment to do your testings. VMware allows you to use your ESXi with the evaluations for 60 days. If you need to renew your evaluation licenses for next 60 days this blog post will help you to get it done in few steps.  

If you don't have the licenses and it exceeded the 60 days evaluation licenses host will disconnect from the vCenter server as below. 

VMware VCSA 6.5 vCenter Backup and Restore process

New VMware vCenter 6.5 Appliance has a backup feature and you can backup your vCenter and restore whenever you required. First of all, I would like to remind you that I haven't done this in a Production environment yet and I only tested this in my test environment. As I mentioned in my earlier posts there are lots of new feature with this 6.5 release and this is one of those.

Taking the Backup

To take the backup of your vCenter login to the Appliance Management interface using "https://<FQDN_OR_IP_ADDRESS_OF_THE_VCENTER>:5480" url

What's New in vSphere 6.5 - Proactive HA

As we all aware there are lot's of new features in VMware 6.5 release. I'm so impressed with this and always I'm spending my time with my vSphere 6.5 Lab. While I was playing around I thought to introduce these new features as a series of posts from my blog. 

Hope you know about VMware high availability features and VMware added a native vCenter high availability feature with this release, you can read my previous posts about this native high availability from here. In this post I'm going write about Proactive HA feature which is introduced with VMware 6.5 release. First of all I would like to mention that this is actually not a feature of HA and it is the next level of DRS which is proactively using the HA feature. I know you may confused with that but don't worry. As I mentioned earlier this feature is a next level of DRS which is designed to provide maximum high availability to your Virtual Machines from any unexpected hardware failures. If you are a Virtualization admin you may experienced with certain failures and encountered with these down times. But did you check back when this hardware failure actually occurred or when was the first symptom of this failure notified. Sometimes you may felt that you could have actually avoid this if you take the actions before. Sometimes it may be a human error, you did not noticed the alert you received from your monitoring device. But with this feature vCenter is going to take care of these situations and it will do the necessary precautions before something go in to a worse situation. 

VMware PowerCLI 6.5.1 - New Release Installation

Some of may already know that VMware has released the PowerShell 6.5.1 and there are lot's of changes and improvements in the Modules, cmdlets and installation process. You may installed the PowerCLI as a separate component in your local management computer and used the PowerCLI cmd console to execute the commands. With this release you don't need to worry about the separate installation for this as it comes as a PowerShell module in the PowerShell Gallery. 

Here are the steps of online installation of the PowerCLI from the PowerShell Gallery. 

I was trying to install this on one of our management server which was setup with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. It was a fresh installation and "Find-Module" command was not recognized as a PowerShell command. So I downloaded the "Windows Management Framework 5.0" from the Microsoft website and installed the update for the Windows 2008 manually. 

After that, I opened a PowerShell with "Run as Administrator" and followed the below steps. 

Typed the "Find-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI" PowerShell command and it installed the NuGet Provider to download the PowerCLI modules and typed "Y" to continue the NuGet installation

vCenter 6.5 High Availability - Initiate the Failover

I'm so impressed with this vCenter 6.5 HA feature and I was testing this in my test environment. I thought to write this article while I was testing the vCenter HA Failover. I wrote couple of posts regarding this feature and I'm writing this post to show the way of initiating the Failover. 

If you are doing the patch upgrades or any related maintenance you can use this feature to minimize the downtime of the vCenter. 

So, login to the vCenter and go the vCenter HA option under the "Configuration" tab. You can see the status of the nodes and please note that my active node is node 2 which is 

To initiate the Failover click on the "Initiate Failover" button on the right upper corner 

vCenter 6.5 High Availability - Possible Configuration Issues

Hope you read my previous post with related to the VCSA 6.5 HA configuration. Again!, this is a new feature came with VMware vCenter 6.5 to minimize the down time of the vCenter server. That is one of the cool feature so far. 

Here, I would like to share something that I experienced while I was deploying and configuring the vCenter HA feature. I believe, this will make your life more easier if you are configuring the "HA" feature.

SSH should be enabled ...

First of all, I mentioned that SSH should be enabled on the appliance if you are deploying the nodes, otherwise you will get a notification and deployment get failed. 

vCenter 6.5 - High Availablity Basic configuration

VMware has introduced the vCenter High Availability feature from 6.5 on wards to minimize the significant down time of the vCenter during the Host hardware failure and the patching or any related maintenance.

Basically, it has two configuration options:
  • Basic 
  • Advanced
Here we are discussing only the "Basic" configuration of the High Availability feature

There are few special requirements to enable this feature in the vCenter
  • This feature only comes with the vCenter 6.5 
  • vCenter deployment size should be at least small therefore 4 vCPUs and 16 GB of RAM required
  • A minimum of 3 Hosts required 
  • Hosts should be at least ESXi 5.5
  •  Management network should be configured with a static IP and FQDN should be reachable 
  • SSH should be enabled on the appliance 
  • Separate Portgroup for the HA network is required 
  • HA network must be a different subnet from the management subnet 
  • Net work latency between the hosts must be less than 10ms 
  • This feature is available with embedded and separate PSC deployment 
You can read performance and best practices from this article

vCenter Server Appliacnce (VCSA) 6.5 Deployment

You may already heard of that VMware released the vCenter server 6.5 and you can experience new features with this new release. I'm in the middle of articles writing during my busy schedule and this is the article for the vCenter Server Appliance aka VCSA 6.5 Deployment. 

It is not just a typical appliance deployment and there are few changes when compared to the traditional pre-built OVA or OVF appliances. Basically, it has two main Stages in the deployment.

Let's get started....

Stage 1 Deployment

 First of all you need to setup your DNS entries for your vCenter Appliance as that's a common requirement for every deployment.

ESXi Password reset - Host Profile the life saver

Before I start this post I would like to give you the background of this post. Recently, we had an uncommon issue with one of the VMware environment in my company. There was a VMware environment which was built few years back and it was working fine. All of sudden, we were informed that vCenter service was not starting and we had to pay attention to the issue. 

That was correct, vCenter service was not running as it was having some issues to it's database. After that we found that the vCenter Database server was not running. As the next step, we tried to login to the ESXi host using root credentials to check the DB server status as it was not possible to RDP in to the server. Bad luck!... Someone has reset the root credentials and not updated the password repository and we didn't know who has done the thing, there might be an story behind this and it is not a time to talk about that. 

The big problem here is we lost the entire root access to the VMware environment as well as we didn't have the vCenter server running and DB was down. That's why I said that's an uncommon issue. You might not face these type of issues in your environment but I think, it's worth of sharing my experience and how we fixed it. 

That was a small environment and our management and all the other teams wanted to know the running VMs and Hosts which are holding them. I would say it is an easy task if you have access to the VMware environment. But here that was a challenge. Fortunately, we had access to the storage and we have enough spare server in our warehouse just in case. 

I would like to say that we had seek the advises from VMware to break the ESXi passwords and they didn't recommend to break the passwords and that was not supported by VMware. I know that there many posts in the internet to show the way of breaking the ESXi root passwords. But we didn't use it......

Our initial plan was to setup an stand alone host in the same site and configure the same subnet as the management network and managed to install the ESXi 5.5 hypervisor. Also, we managed to zone and mask the Production LUNs to this host and logged in to the host, accessed the datastores to check the running VMs. That was good to see the running VMs but was not able to identify the hosts aka owners which are keeping the VMs (VMs and applications were running without any issues Production was not impacted). 

We used -flat.VMDK file locks to identify the ESXi hosts owners, we created a ssh session to the stand alone ESXi host and used "vmkfstools -D" switch to identify the MAC address of the owner of the VM. 

vSphere 6.0 - VMware Auto Deploy Configuration

If you have a large VMware environment with hundreds of ESXi hosts, deploying hosts might be a big challenge. VMware introduced this Auto Deploy feature for the bulk ESXI deployment and previously, configuration was bit complex. This feature was a separate component and with vSphere 6.0 it comes as a inbuilt feature of the vCenter, you need only the activation and start the service. 

Here in my post I'm going to show the way that you can configure this feature in the vSphere 6.0 vCenter server, I'm really sorry If I made this post long as I need to show you the every single step that I followed in my deployment, that might be really helpful to a new starter and those who new to Auto Deploy feature.

By default, hosts provisioned by the auto deploy pull down the ESXi image each time at the host boots. If the auto deploy server or the FTP server which is holding the ESXi image is down host will not boot using the auto deploy. You can see a similar error and your host will reboot frequently. 

First of all, you need have a DHCP server in place in your environment and it should support the PXE boot and the it should be able to point the TFTP boot server for your Auto Deploy ESXi server. In my case I'm using a Windows 2008 R2 Server as my DHCP server and SolarWinds free TFTP server to stream the boot image.